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High-resolution audio (HRA) is a hot topic these days. It promises better audio quality than MP3s and even uncompressed CDs and equivalent digital files, but there's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about it within the ranks of audio consumers.

To help address this problem, AVS Forum and Sony are offering AVS members an opportunity to ask an expert anything they want to know about high-res audio in a series of real-time interactive sessions. The first session will be focused on defining high-res audio—exactly what it is, how it's created, where to get it, and what you need to fully enjoy it.



On Thursday, September 1, 2016, from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Pacific time (2:00 PM to 3:30 PM Eastern time), we will have a thread in the Audio Setup, Theory, and Chat forum called "Ask Me Anything: Defining High-Res Audio" in which you can post questions for the expert, who will answer them right then and there. Since it will be a normal AVS thread, you'll need to reload the page often to see his responses as well as any new questions that are posted.

Who's the expert? Bob O'Donnell, the founder, president, and chief analyst at Technalysis Research, has enjoyed a long, multi-faceted career in the technology business. The firm's research and Bob's opinions are regularly used by major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV, Investor's Business Daily and more. Bob writes a weekly column/blog for Techpinions.com and a biweekly column for the Tech section of USA Today. He also occasionally writes guest columns for Fast Company, engadget, Smarter Analyst, Indian Engineers, and other digital publications. In addition, he participates in a weekly podcast for Techpinions. For some of Bob's thoughts on high-res audio, check out a recent blog he wrote.

Prior to founding Technalysis Research, Bob served as a vice president at industry-research firm IDC. He was also the editor of Electronic Musician and Music Technology magazines, where he gained a deep knowledge of digital audio. In addition, Bob is the author of the book Personal Computer Secrets, and for over 10 years, he hosted O'Donnell on Technology, a radio show that was selected as the Best Computer Audio program in the country by the Computer Press Awards. You can follow him on Twitter @BobOD tech, on Facebook at Bob O'Donnell, and on LinkedIn at Bob O'Donnell.

In addition to getting answers about high-res audio, those who submit a question will be automatically entered to win one of two prize packages, each including a Sony NWZ-A17 portable high-res audio player and a pair of Sony MDR-1A headphones that can easily resolve high-res audio. The two winners will be selected by random drawing from among those who submit at least one question; submitting more than one question will not increase your chance of winning.

To help the event get off to a good start, we invite you to submit a question about the definition of high-res audio in this thread, which will be transferred over to the new thread on September 1 and answered first—and of course, you will be entered to win one of the prize packages.

So what would you like to know about the definition of high-res audio? Post your question(s) here and be sure to follow the event thread on September 1 for the answers.

For the official rules and regulations of the giveaway, click here.
 

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Hello- what qualifies as Hi-Res? Could an analog recording, for example, never actually qualify as Hi-Res even if it was remastered due to how it was originally recorded?
 

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Please introduce us to someone, anyone, that can hear the difference between high-res and standard 44/16 with music made from the same master in an ABX test?

Feel free to exclude me from the competition itself as I'm in the wrong corner of the world, I just want to see the answer.
 

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Hello- what qualifies as Hi-Res? Could an analog recording, for example, never actually qualify as Hi-Res even if it was remastered due to how it was originally recorded?
You might want to clarify what you mean by "analog recording". Some analog mediums are better than others in terms of their capability to capture hi-res audio information. Some are more limited in their precision/range capabilities than Redbook, while others surpass CD "quality" in one or more aspects (speaking strictly in terms of fidelity). Without this clarification, your question could be interpreted in at least two different ways...

1) Reader assumes that when you say "analog recording", you mean one that was originally recorded to an analog medium with less dynamic range and/or a more limited frequency response range than what you could achieve with 16-bit, 44.1khz digital audio. In this case, the "yes or no" answer you get would be based soley on whether or not the person answering the question believes that provenance is important in determining if the final version is "hi-res". If they do then they'll say "No, it's not hi-res." If they don't then they say "Yes, it is hi-res."

2) Reader does not assume that we are limiting discussion to only those analog mediums that offer lower fidelity than you can get from 16-bit, 44.1khz digital audio. In this case, the answer may focus more on the capabilities of certain current and theoretical analog mediums and never get around to addressing the issue of provenance.
 

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For my question, I would ask...

Is it still hi-res audio if the content has been "lossy" compressed, even if the format is capable of storing information above 22khz and/or with a dynamic range greater than ~100 dB?

For example, many DVD versions of movies contain soundtracks with a bit depth of greater than 16 bits and a sampling rate of greater than 44.1khz. Yet, these soundtracks are almost universally considered to be inferior to the lossless versions (e.g. Dolby True HD/DTS-HD Master Audio) found on Blu-Ray discs. Differences in the master/mix aside, this is largely due to the lossy nature of legacy Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1 encoding. Basically, they surpass Redbook audio in terms of dynamic range and frequency response capabilities, but they potentially offer less fidelity in the audible range because they may throw away information that can result in audible compression artifacts.

I think this is an important issue that is often overlooked as most hi-res discussions revolve around bit depth and sampling rates. Many people don't even realize that an MP3 can contain "hi-res" information, and yet be inferior to Redbook audio because of the way it throws away bits that have an audible impact when overly compressed.
 

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For my question, I would ask...

Is it still hi-res audio if the content has been "lossy" compressed, even if the format is capable of storing information above 22khz and/or with a dynamic range greater than ~100 dB?




This is what I want to know. My knowledge is extremely limited in this area and I did not realize I was asking such a generic question or using analog recordings as a poor example.
 

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I've always wondered why some compressed files are supposed to be superior to cd quality content. I totally get the fact that a compressed file can sound just as good as a cd track because the formats strip useless data.. But even if nothing useful is removed, how can something be better without anything being added? There is surely something I ignore, and I'll take the chance here to get to know what it is!!!

PS : I'm not cynical nor skeptical, I just want to understand better :D
 

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I love my DVD-Audio and SACD and my tracks bought from HDtracks but I would love for somebody to justify the extreme pricing seen in HRA some of it is just ridiculous compared to a standard CD
if just can't cost that much more to distribute in 24bit 96khz
 

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I have spent the last several months building a nice audio system with speakers, a sub, cables, a DAC, and sound software. I have upgraded many of the songs in my library from low res Apple 256 to high res 24/96, and with my system I can easily hear an improvement.

My question: What can be done, when so many people are listening to music via cheap Bluetooth speakers and headphones, to effectively spread the word about the benefits of high resolution music and the equipment capable of reproducing it so that significantly more people will upgrade their music and gear? I want more people to feel the thrill that comes from the experience of listening to great music and capable audio systems. If people only knew what they are missing!
 

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I read Bob's blog over on "Recode" and in his own words -
Recording resolutions could go even higher, but for any applications involving people, there’s no point.

So, this begs me to question what really sets Hi-Rez audio apart from a quality recording - any quality recording? Trying not to be a skeptic but this has kind of a 30 minute infomercial spiel to it, a Sony spiel. With that being said, I would be interested in the "new" format (if that's what it is) only if I could test drive it with the equipment I already own. Is that possible?
 

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I'm a complete newbie when it comes to high-res audio, but I've seen mention of using a DAC. Can someone explain when it's necessary or desirable to use a DAC? I believe this would be placed between the audio player and a pair of headphones or speakers. Do certain players eliminate the need for a DAC?
 

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MQA

please tell us what you think of MQA: will it become mainstream ever?
 
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Imo an upgrade from 2 channel to lossless multichannel is having a far greater impact in spatial resolution than the switch from 16 bit to a higher bitrate.


Will multichannel mixes for music be accepted as part of the HRA family of formats ?


Ps
Marketing turntables as hires doesn't instill much confidence in the HRA effort being genuine.
 

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Marketing turntables as hires doesn't instill much confidence in the HRA effort being genuine.
I haven't followed vinyl playback for several decades now. This is actually being done?! Or are just speaking hypothetically?
 
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I have another question, according to the MQA marketing material MQA encoded material can sound better than the original masters. How is that physically/technically possible?
 
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